[UPDATE – Embraer communiqué:

On Thursday morning, October 12, as part of the flight test campaign for certification, a prototype of the KC-390 multi-mission transport aircraft performed stall speed flight tests, which resulted in aircraft altitude loss due to decreased lift force.

Due to the maneuvers performed and following the established protocols for this specific situation, the crew requested an early return to the base, landing safely at the company’s aerodrome in Gavião Peixoto (SP) where the flight test campaign is being carried out.

The KC-390 is scheduled to enter service in 2018, according to the program schedule. Currently, two KC-390 prototypes have accumulated more than 1,300 flight hours. ]

Please start here. (original in Portuguese)  It appears the Embraer KC-390 had a mishap on October 12 during a test flight.  Here’s a link to the flight on that day from Flightradar24.  The crucial gap in tracking is readily visible.  Here is an image of PT-ZNF doing its first flight.

We requested a response from Embraer about this story.  As the comments below the linked post above show the story, as told, generated confusion.

The KC-390 is a clean sheet design and an entirely new aircraft type for Embraer.  The OEM is chartering new territory here. There is no disputing the company’s engineering is first class. So can the program hit unexpected snags? Of course.  But that is what is expected from flight test programs. Every OEM invariably hits a snag of some sort.  Computer models and simulators cannot replicate everything.  That is the purpose of flight tests, to wring out any kinks and ensure the aircraft performs in a predictable way when in service.

Consequently, whatever actually happened on October 12, Embraer is no doubt working on a fix.  The OEM will in due course no doubt make any statement necessary. We will publish their response to our request.

But what this does show is that the aviation community is passionate about flight test programs.  Using the flight tracking tools they monitor everything.  When something weird happens, they are on the case immediately.  An OEM does not really have a chance – unless they switch off the ADS-B system.  This is done frequently, but it’s not a solution if the aircraft is flying in airspace where it needs to be “seen” by other aircraft, ensuring safe flight by all.

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Addison Schonland
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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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